Duke Ellington is/was a jazz grand master. A bold innovator who fought racism, classism & proudly employed known gay creators like Billy Strayhorn. This is the sort of jazz I once hated – too smooth, too swing, & too much my Dad’s music. But I got over that thanks partly to the Time-Life Giants of Jazz series of 3 lps box sets that included one of Ellington which I transferred to 2 cds. I dug his wild early work with voices. I kept finding inexpensive lps of compilations like Monologue, Early Years, Primping For The Prom which also received the lp to cd transfer treatment.
He composed many jazz tone poems, suites of connected pieces that explored Harlem, revival meetings; as well creating classics like Take the A train, Sophisticated Lady. Black Brown Beige (featuring Mahalia Jackson) pushed jazz to a neo-classical area without strings. Amazing.
On a couple of mp3 collections I have two different live sets: Live at Newport; The Great Paris Concert: I had Paris as lp but found a cd release with bonus tracks – yea. On Afro-Eurasian Eclipse & Togo Bravo suite he explores World Music rhythms. His soundtrack for Anatomy of a Murder is wonderful.
Ellington wasn’t afraid to stretch himself with amazing recordings with a couple of jazz revolutionaries. His Ballads with John Coltrane is sublime, resonant, romantic and a must hear. On Money Jungle he tangles with Charlie Mingus & Max Roach & produces, for me, his most radical work. Driving, dissonant & timeless. This is what Bad Plus strives for, & occasionally reaches, but never overtakes.
This is a review is totally fabricated – from artists’ names, instruments, languages & locations. One way I want to create the mythos of Isle St. Nuit is via this indirect third party of inclusions of details about the Isle.
Dans Le Jardin: In The Garden – Telmanna Dix Morlanda – Telmanna’s new cd is a delight from start to finish, especially to those of us who have followed his career for the last several years. Despite his dark Latin looks he has managed to avoid the Americanization that has befallen too many other’s.
His current album which concentrates on the music of Isle St. Nuit follows in the footsteps of his recordings of music from Cuba, Panama and Brazil. He moves with ease from various dialects and complex rhythms. This album is mainly performed in the St Nuit patois which is a mix of French, Spanish and African tribal dialects.
Several of the songs are taken from the Livre Santitina, a collection of ritual songs and dances for the worship of the three snakes. Some are adaptations of children’s songs.
Telmanna is joined by L’Purle Valdez on three up tempo numbers. She brings her special sasqualla rhythms with her from Panama. Hard to keep still when she tears into a song, any song.
For those of you unfamiliar with this genre Dans Le Jardin makes a good introduction. Lyrics are in English and Nuit Patois, though in some cases not knowing what is being sung might add to your pleasure.
The title song is powerful in its use of native instrumentation – the galida (a three string lute like gourd) players combined with the relentless drumming and percussion will draw the listener very quickly into the thick of a Santitina ceremony. The lyrics call upon the spirits to guide, protect, and if necessary kill all adversaries. The last track, running at nearly forty minutes, ‘Mort de Marie’ tells the story of the death of the Virgin Mary that somehow, and I’m not familiar with this particular St. Nuit legend, allowed for the freedom of the slaves.
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